Editorial: The Bears may stir Chicago’s blood with splashy pitch for a lakefront stadium. We’re not convinced.

Chicago Bears CEO Kevin Warren, along with Mayor Brandon Johnson, invoked the illustrious name of the legendary architect Daniel Burnham more than a dozen times Wednesday in their slick public presentation on the team’s domed-stadium plan for Chicago’s lakefront.

That makes sense from a public relations perspective. It was Burnham’s Plan of Chicago that established the idea of a city lakefront that would be “forever open, clear and free.” In order to get public buy-in for what would be the most substantial development on that near-sacrosanct public land, Chicagoans will need convincing this massive change lines up with Burnham’s vision, long the envy of cities across the world. “The Lakefront by right belongs to the people,” Burnham wrote in the 1909 document. “Not a foot of its shores should be appropriated to the exclusion of the people.”

He did not specify any exception for NFL teams.

The Burnham plan also will likely come up in a courtroom when the near-inevitable lawsuit from Friends of the Parks and other protectors of the lakefront are filed. Assuming the Bears’ costly current ambitions get to that point.

We’ll get to the particulars of the plan below, but we were amazed Warren and Johnson chose to host so audacious a public display without having first briefed Gov. J.B. Pritzker on its details. After all, none of this will happen without the backing of the General Assembly and the governor. They hold the purse strings.

Pritzker and Senate President Don Harmon have said repeatedly — and reiterated Wednesday — that they see little to no public appetite for taxpayer subsidies to professional sports teams, which after all are privately owned companies. The Bears, in particular, are members of one of the most exclusive and lucrative clubs in the world — NFL franchises. Leaguewide revenues have been climbing roughly $1 billion a year, staggering even for the broader world of professional sports. Owners are rich folks.

Additionally, it was unsettling to see Johnson, who as mayor is supposed to represent taxpayers, appear to be fully on board with a plan not yet fully fleshed out. There are no agreements, we were told, on how the team and the Chicago Park District would split revenues from concerts and other events in what would most likely be a taxpayer-owned stadium. There’s no deal on the rent the team would pay. Johnson and Warren evinced a mutual vibe sending the message to taxpayers that they would work it out in the future. As pals do.

Beware a mayor badly in need of a PR win.

Johnson, badly struggling in the first year of his term by any reasonable definition, looks to us like he’s picked this majestic facility on the lakefront, not to mention the intensity of Bears fandom, to pull his mayoralty out of the ditch.

Mr. Mayor, you’re supposed to be taxpayers’ first line of protection not to mention the principal guardian of this city’s most precious physical resource — its lakefront. That’s not what you looked like up on that stage.

As to the proposal itself, among the aspects that are undeniably positive is the desirability of a domed NFL stadium in the city of Chicago capable of hosting major events like Super Bowls, NCAA finals, Taylor Swift concerts, World Cup soccer games and the like. Warren, who talked to the Tribune Editorial Board Wednesday afternoon along with his savvy executive vice president of stadium development and chief operating officer, Karen Murphy, is correct when he pointed out that rival cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas are reaping the financial benefits of such happenings while Chicago isn’t even in the conversation when it comes to hosting events on that level. And the renderings look most exciting.

We agree, too, with the mayor that the Chicago Bears belong in Chicago. No question. We were glad to hear Warren tell us that he now was comfortable saying definitively that the Bears want to stay in Chicago, land holdings in Arlington Heights notwithstanding.

But, wow, the hurdles to getting this stadium over the finish line are steep.

First, there’s the lakefront itself. If the Lucas Museum, which this page has argued would have been a better fit with the Museum Campus aesthetic than a domed stadium, was found to have violated the spirit of Burnham, so surely does a glitzy indoor sports arena.

Secondly, the Bears are claiming that Chicago can build the stadium without hiking taxes. Technically, that’s true, but only short term. The Bears want the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority to float well over $1 billion in bonds to provide $900 million for stadium construction, $150 million for a cash reserve, and hundreds of millions more to refinance existing ISFA debt funding Guaranteed Rate Field and the renovation of Soldier Field. Remarkably, those bonds would have 40-year terms, longer than any current state or city bonds.

Incurring more debt means more taxpayer liability. Even if taxes don’t rise immediately, that doesn’t mean they won’t rise eventually.

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Third, the genuinely exciting renderings depicting a modern stadium with a translucent roof, accompanied by playgrounds, practice fields and other attractive amenities nearby, were somewhat misleading. Neither the Bears nor the city have identified financing for those public amenities. Bears officials said it was up to the city and state to find revenue sources to make those visions a reality. Maybe federal grants? State programs? All “future conversations.”

As to the potential for building the stadium elsewhere in the city, Warren told us the Bears had reviewed with seriousness every potential option, including locations on the South and West sides and the city-owned property once home to Michael Reese Hospital. All of them didn’t work, he claimed, for one reason or another. In the case of the Reese site, he said, the site is too narrow and presents logistical problems due to NFL security protocols.

Fair enough, but is the lakefront really the simplest option? With all the legal impediments so amply illustrated over the past two decades?

Warren emphasized that time is of the essence in building this stadium. Delay only means the costs of the project rise. He’s right. But if there’s one site where nothing is likely to happen quickly, it’s the lakefront tract that drove George Lucas out of Chicago and to Los Angeles.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. If the Bears didn’t have dreams of a lakefront palace in their eyes, we have little doubt a site in the city could be made to work more quickly. Could more land be accumulated around Michael Reese? There’s vacant land throughout Chicago. Surely, creative minds also could put together a South Side or West Side plot that not only would work for a stadium but could reenergize a neighborhood in desperate need. But it’s clear the Bears have zeroed in on the lakefront.

The Bears are vital to Chicago. The governor and legislative leaders should give Warren and company a respectful hearing and kick the tires of their proposal, as we will do in coming weeks.

We’ll concede one major point to Warren and the Bears: These are no small plans and from our survey of the reaction on social media, they have the capacity to “stir men’s blood” (and women’s too).

But if and when Warren hears something approximating “no,” which could well be the reaction from the big dogs in Springfield, let’s hope he, his team and our political leaders get their creative juices flowing on keeping the Chicago Bears in Chicago. Even if not on Burnham’s beloved lakefront.

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